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48       MY COUNTRY AND MY PEOPLE

conversation" (cKingfan), and dreaming about Taoist fairies
and discovering the pill of immortality. This period seemed to
be politically the lowest period of the Chinese race since the
Chou and Han times, representing the end of a progressive
degeneration of the race until, for the first time in its history,
China was submerged under barbarian rule. Was this cult of
indifference natural, and if not, how was it brought about?
History reveals this to us in no uncertain terms.

Toward the end of the Han Dynasty, the Chinese scholars
were not indifferent.   In fact, political criticism was at its
height during this period.  Leading scholars and "university"
students, numbering over thirty thousand, were often em-
broiled over questions of current politics, and dared the wrath
of the eunuchs and the Emperor in their intrepid attacks on
government policies or the conduct of members of the imperial
household.   Yet,  because  of the  absence  of constitutional
protection, this movement ended in complete suppression at
the hands of the eunuchs. Two or three hundred scholars and
sometimes their whole families were sentenced to death, exile
or imprisonment.  This occurred in the years A.D. 166-169,
and was known as the tangku, or "party cases." This was
carried out in such a thorough fashion and on such a grand
scale that the whole movement was cut short, and its re-
maining effects were felt for over a century afterward. Then
came the reaction and the cult of indifference and the develop-
ing crazes for wine, women, poetry and Taoistic occultism.
Some of the scholars went into the mountains and built them-
selves mudhouses without a door, receiving their food through
a window till their death.   Others disguised themselves as
woodcutters and begged their relatives to save them from
recognition by refraining from making calls.

Immediately after that came the seven poets, or the "Pl&ade
of the Bamboo Grove." Liu Ling, a great poet, could go on
a drunken fit for months. He used to travel on a cart with a
jug of wine, a shovel and a grave-digger, giving the latter the
order as they started: "Bury me when I am dead!anywhere,
any time" People admired him and called him "clever." All
scholars affected either extreme rusticity or extreme sensuality
and extreme superficiality. Another great poet, Yiian Hsien,